Thomas’ Comments — A Response

Ahhhh, the best-laid plans of mice, moms, and bloggers. But I want to address the very thoughtful points made by Thomas Banks about my personal statement of faith.

Here are his comments:

“A couple of questions:

1) It appears that you believe the manifold injustice in the world to be economic in nature, viz, the oppression of the poor by the rich, and Christians too often enlisting themselves conveniently on the side of wealth/power for its own sake. Certainly one could multiply instances of either, I agree.

But do you think that economic justice stands in straits more desperate than, say, sexual justice? Certainly our culture broadly endorses any number of sexual practices for which one can find no warrant, and plenty of condemnation in the either scriptures or the fathers.

For example, suppose a believing employee of the Salvation Army
were to see a homeless man on the street, and, passing by him, a woman who looked to be about six months pregnant walking towards an abortion clinic? Now it’s obvious that both cases demand the love and witness of the Christian who encounters them, but isn’t the woman (even more to the point, her child) in a more desperate case? I think the answer must be a definite yes.”

I copied Thomas’ words from the comments section, and if I’ve missed something I hope he’ll let me know. And I appreciate his point: Economic justice is as important as he and I agree, but so is sexual righteousness — which I might term “sexual justice,” and which I think is sometimes linked to problems of patriarchy and socio-economic injustice.

The example above compels me to agree that the situation the woman is suffering through, and the threat to her unborn child, is more immediately a cause for concern than that of the homeless man. Where I flinch in agreeing with Thomas here is that too often the focus on the immediacy of the woman’s situation and the poisoned, patriarchal sexual ethic the right wing has promulgated in Christ’s name results in the horror of “Christians” screaming at women in abortion clinics and flinging at them photos of dismembered fetuses.

That’s not a Christian ANYTHING — and certainly not a reasonable, compassionate response to the possibility of either her sexual victimization, her possible ambivalence about the abortion, her economic and emotional needs, and the threat to the life of the baby within. And my experience, with which Thomas is free to disagree, is that the people who victimize women at abortion clinics are not also devoting the rest of their time to ministering to the homeless.

So if we believe that there is the possibility that the woman is suffering in some way — and if we necessarily recognize that she may be just fine without our intervention, thanks — how should followers of Christ approach her? My thoughts here are that they first ought to stop, think, pray, and then pray some more, asking the Lord for discernment, wisdom, grace, and sensitivity. If the words “murdering babies” occur to them, they ought to leave, and leave quickly.

And here, frankly, I wish they would be women; men simply cannot understand the shock and fear some pregnancies bring to women, nor will they ever grasp the myriad situations that may compel a woman to consider ending her pregnancy. That doesn’t mean that men cannot or should not move to prevent injustice or violence, but that they are burdened with a heavy combination of empirical ignorance and insensitivity. Addressing the woman’s situation may result in great damage, and that would be, in this case, a woman made terrified and alienated by a follower of Christ who still chooses to end her pregnancy. As long as abortion is legal in the United States, and I’m deeply concerned about it’s being criminalized, she can choose to end the life of her baby. If we are correct that the unborn child is imbued with a soul, having been created in the image of God, then we can take some comfort in his or her destiny, and in the likelihood, perhaps, of the woman’s not finding the Gospel repugnant.

So what would I do? After praying, I would go up to the woman and ask if she’s OK. I’d read her face, her voice, and listen — really listen — if she chooses to speak to me. I’d ask her what she needs, what she wants, and what I can do for her. I would also, humbly, recognize that she doesn’t have to give me the time of day. If she wants my help, I would do whatever I could for her. But if she wants to be left alone, I’d give her my number and tell her that if she ever needs help with anything, I’d try to do what I could.

And then I’d go see how I could help the chronically homeless man.

Thomas, and others, let me know what you think, and thanks for your comments.

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